Finding the Key to Success


I’m tired of writing about writing for the moment. I’m bogged down at something short of 40,000 words on my REICHOLD STREET sequel.

I’m also having trouble with the other novel I’m working on. My thousand-words-a-day plan is at least three weeks behind, and I just don’t have the oomph to get started. My brain is fried.

It isn’t something new. I know, as every author knows, the writing business isn’t easy.

Indie authors may know it better than most, since they’re usually doing everything: writing, editing, formatting, cover and page design, print preparation, digital versions … and virtually everything else, including marketing and promotion.

I’m still trying different things to market the three books I’ve already produced. It’s a thankless, never-ending effort, but we still do it.


Every author, including the poor wannabe who’s still trying to deal with one publisher rejection after another, remembers what Frank Sinatra once said (even if they don’t know he said it):

“The best revenge is massive success.”

You’ll never find truer words, particularly when it comes to aspiring authors. Many suffer awful, degrading turndowns from traditional publishers, yet they still persevere. It’s happened to some of the biggest names in the business.

I took the time to look up some of those publisher rejections (like I said, it’s been a slow writing week, and my search for the muse often makes me wander to strange places).

Take a look at the following list of six well-known authors (and some of the nasty little notes publishers sent to them) and savor the taste of their sweet revenge.

1. Stephen King
Mr. King received dozens of rejections for his first novel, Carrie; he kept them neatly nailed to a spike under a timber in his bedroom. One of the publishers sent Mr. King a rejection with these words:

  • We’re not interested in science fiction which deals in negative utopias. They don’t sell.

His wife, Tabitha, actually rescued the Carrie manuscript from the trash after Stephen threw it away. She made him send it out again and keep writing … and we all know where he’s gone since then.

2. William Golding
Mr. Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishers. One editor denounced the future classic with these words:

  • An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.

Golding’s book is now required reading in many places, and that rejection should be inscribed on the hapless editor’s tomb.

3. J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (it was called the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA) was rejected by a dozen publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins. It was finally published by Bloomsbury, a small London publisher, who only took it at the request of the CEO’s eight-year-old daughter, who begged her father to print the book.

God bless you, sweetheart.

4. Ursula K. LeGuin
One publisher to whom sci-fi / fantasy legend Ursula LeGuin offered a manuscript sent her this helpful little missive regarding her novel:

  • The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information … the whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. Your manuscript is returned herewith.

The Left Hand of Darkness went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the highest awards possible for science fiction and fantasy.

5. George Orwell
One publisher rejected Mr. Orwell’s submission, Animal Farm, with these words:

  • It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.

Time magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels. You have to wonder if the rejecting editor really read the manuscript for this allegorical classic at all.

6. Madeleine L’Engle
Ms. L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (one of my granddaughter’s favorite books) was rejected by 26 publishers before finally breaking into print.

It not only became an instant classic, it went on to win the Sequoyah Book Award, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and the 1963 Newbery Medal, awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.


Sweet Revenge Indeed
Two of these publisher rejects now lead the top-ten list of the world’s richest authors. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has banked an astonishing $1 Billion (that’s with a “B”). Second place on the list goes to fright-meister Stephen King. His net worth is a paltry $400 million.

William Golding, Ursula LeGuin, George Orwell and Madeleine L’Engle had decidedly successful careers and are part of literary history.

My point?

Never give up, and for goodness sake … keep writing!


Next Saturday, October 5, 2013, will mark the date for the sixth annual Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. It’s a one-day conference with a variety of sessions and guest speakers.

I’m looking forward to it. Local conferences like this are a great way to network with other writers and get an intense one-day course in the craft of writing. I hope to come home ready to write again!

Creating Believable Characters
Don’t forget to click on the link in the right-hand column to get your copy of “Creating Believable Characters.” It was written specifically to aid writers with their character development and the price shouldn’t be a deterrent … it’s FREE.


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2 Responses to “Finding the Key to Success”

  1. Ron Herron Says:

    I’ve been to every one of the Rochester Writer’s Conferences, and always learn something worthwhile. It’s a day well spent.
    Thanks, Mary.


  2. Mary Hackstock Says:

    Interesting post. Have a good time at the conference on Saturday. Being with people who share your interests is always rewarding and inspiring. Love

    Sent from my iSlate


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